Why Is It Called a Pea Coat?

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Pea coats are a popular style of outerwear that is seen on both men and women during chilly weather. However, the coat started off as a purely functional uniform item for the Navy. Receiving its name from the fabric its made from, the pea coat has been around for 300 years and looks like it is here to stay.

Navy Origins

The term “pea coat” has been around since the 18th century to refer to coats made from pilot cloth. These coats were initially constructed as part of the cold weather uniform worn by the British and Dutch sailors. It became a part of the United States navy uniform in the early 18th century.

Coat Description

The original Navy and most classic pea coats today are made from coarse wool in a short double-breasted style. They are more often found in a blue or black color. Sometimes the buttons will be embellished with anchors or naval insignia stemming from their naval history. There are usually three to six buttons that are made from wood or brass.

Pilot Cloth

Pilot cloth is a type of wool that was used to make the sailors' coats, hence adapting the name "pea coat" after the first letter (P) in the word "pilot." It is a coarse, heavy twilled wool that is typically dyed navy blue. It is very heavily napped.


Because pea coats have been around since the 1700s and continue to be made today, they can often be found at inexpensive price points or sold in thrift stores. Many people view them as versatile as they can be worn with most outfits, dressy or casual. Due to the heavy wool that is used in making them, they are ideal for winter seasons and chilly weather.

Modern Styles of Pea Coats

Pea coats are now found in both men, women and children's styles. They come in a variety of colors including red, teal, green, white and grey and can be found in different lengths. Most of the women’s pea coats are tailored and cut to be more form fitting. Pea coats can be found at different price points in discount stores and high-end luxury designer boutiques.